CSB Releases New Safety Video on 2011 Explosion and Fire During Fireworks Disposal Activities

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CSB - U.S. CHEMICAL SAFETY BOARD -- An independent federal agency investigating chemical accidents to protect workers, the public, and the environment

CSB Releases New Safety Video on 2011 Explosion and Fire that Killed Five Workers during a Fireworks Disposal Operation in Hawaii

January 18, 2013

Investigation Details:
Donaldson Enterprises, Inc. Fatal Fireworks Disassembly Explosion and Fire

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board today released a new safety video depicting the events leading up to an explosion and fire that killed five workers during a fireworks disposal operation in Waipahu, Hawaii. The new video, entitled “Deadly Contract” features a new HD animation depicting highly explosive firework components igniting inside a tunnel-like magazine.

The video, which details the findings and safety recommendations resulting from the Board’s final report, was approved January 17 at a public meeting in Washington, DC. The DEI investigation report concludes that the explosion and fire resulted from unsafe disposal practices, insufficient safety requirements for government contractor selection and oversight and an absence of adequate federal regulations, standards, and guidelines for safe fireworks disposal.

In the video CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso says, “Fireworks have been around for centuries, so we were surprised to learn that there are no good-practice procedures for their disposal. And we also found that the federal government did not require fireworks disposal contractors to demonstrate that they could perform the work safely.”

The April 8, 2011, incident occurred as employees of Donaldson Enterprises, Inc. (DEI) sought shelter from rain inside a storage magazine located in Waipahu, Hawaii, near Honolulu. The storage facility contained government-confiscated, illegally labeled fireworks, which the workers had been dismantling under a subcontract to a federal prime contract. To conduct this work, DEI personnel cut into the fireworks and separated out the aerial shells and black powder – a highly explosive mixture of chemicals used to propel the fireworks into the air. The accumulation of aerial shells and black powder greatly increased the explosion hazard.

The video includes an interview with Mr. Ali Reza, an explosives expert that worked with the CSB on its investigation. In the video Mr. Rezas says, ”As you’re physically breaking up the fireworks…you’re exposing yourself to the black powder. Once you have loose black powder in contact with materials that can create friction, an ignition is extremely likely.”

CSB Investigator Amanda Johnson states, “While the exact ignition source could not be determined, strong possibilities include friction from an office chair rolling over the loose explosive powder on the magazine floor, or a metal spark from a hand truck, which was blown over 100 feet from the magazine entrance when the explosion occurred.”

The final report notes that OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standard applies to fireworks manufacturing, but not to fireworks disposal work. The investigation determined, “DEI would have greatly benefitted from Process Safety Management (PSM) principles and concepts of inherent safety,” among them, not accumulating large amounts of highly explosive black powder and aerial shells while awaiting disposal.

Investigator Amanda Johnson said, “The CSB found the root causes of the explosion went far beyond DEI’s flawed procedures. For instance, we found there are no federal, state or local codes, regulations or standards that establish safety requirements or provide guidance on proper ways to dispose of fireworks.”

As a result of the report’s findings the CSB is recommending that federal agencies develop a new government-wide safety and environmental responsibility requirement for contractors, and calls for new regulations on the safe disposal of fireworks, a growing problem across the US.

The CSB released its final report and formal safety recommendation at a public meeting in Washington, DC on January 17, 2013.

The video is available to stream or download on http://www.csb.gov and may be viewed on the CSB’s YouTube channel, USCSB (www.youtube.com/uscsb).

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. The agency’s board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, http://www.csb.gov.

For more information, contact CSB Communications Manager Hillary Cohen, cell 202 446.8094, or Sandy Gilmour, cell 202.251.5496.

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U.S. Chemical Safety Board | 2175 K Street NW | Washington, DC 20037 | www.csb.gov

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4th of July Firework Safety Tips

Tomorrow is our nations’ independance day and we’ll celebrate, among other things by blowing things up 🙂

Every year emergency rooms start to fill up with people who’ve accidentally injured themselves or been injured because of fireworks. To avoid spending your holiday in the emergency room, here are a few safety tips:

  • Have a “designated Fireworks” person. By this I mean that drinking and fireworks DO NOT MIX. If you are going to drink, don’t touch fireworks.
  • Know where the fireworks are and who has access to them. Make sure that everyone knows who is and who is not allowed to light them.
  • Watch small children. It’s easy to get distracted and busy at the BBQ and forget about the two-year old running around.
  • Closely supervise older kids if they are going to light any fireworks. No one can tell you whether or not your child is old enough to use fireworks. Every child is different but if you believe your child is ready and mature enough, train, teach and supervise them as they light fireworks.
  • ALWAYS keep plenty of water handy to extinguish duds or put out anything (or anyone) who accidentally catches fire.
  • NEVER pick up a firework that didn’t ignite properly. It could be smoldering and go off in your hand. Douse with water and let it sit untouched for up to 10 minutes to soak up the water and extinguish any ember. Dispose of it in a metal can.
  • Understand that even sparkler generate tremendous amounts of heat. Children should not wave them around or run while holding them. It is all too easy for them to trip and seriously burn themselves or someone else.
  • Plan and control where the fireworks are going off. Do not just fire them willy-nilly as the embers can start fires and/or injure people.
  • Remember to lock up your pets and check on them. Animal control reports incredibly high numbers of animals that end up in the pound after the 4rth of July because the pets get frightened and bolt and often either get injured or killed or can’t find their way home.
  • Always wear safety glasses when lighting fireworks.

Have a happy and safe independence day!


Fireworks Safety

It seems like a yearly ritual as regular as the setting off of fireworks itself, namely the warnings about the dangers of fireworks. Sadly enough, it continues to be necessary.

The following table from the National Council on Fireworks Safety and available as a download on their website here shows the injury rates in the USA since 1976

As you can see, we’ve made great strides in reducing the number of injuries, even though things have rather stagnated over the past 6-8 years or so.

The NCFS website offers these safety tips:

  • Use fireworks outdoors only.
  • Obey local laws. If fireworks are not legal where you live, do not use them.
  • Always have water handy. (A hose or bucket).
  • Only use fireworks as intended. Don’t try to alter them or combine them.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  • Use common sense. Spectators should keep a safe distance from the shooter and the shooter should wear safety glasses.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a “designated shooter.”
  • Only persons over the age of 12 should be allowed to handle sparklers of any type.
  • Do not ever use homemade fireworks of illegal explosives: They can kill you! Report illegal explosives to the fire or police department in your community.

Get more information on the NCFS website at www.fireworksafety.com and check out their fireworks safety video here.